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The True Cost of Customer Security Questionnaires

February 15, 2020

As a business owner or C-Suite leader, you may be growing tired of spending money and using your precious information security resources on the security questionnaires your customers demand from you. After all, you hired those resources to protect your own business and now the majority of their time is focused on completing security questionnaires for your customers, leaving your business vulnerable.

If you’re simply considering your infosec team’s salaries as the cost of completing security questionnaires, you’re overlooking some pretty significant costs. Let’s take a look at the other costs involved beyond your team’s salaries.

Direct Costs

  • Delayed Sales Timeline: Anything done manually will take longer than an automated process. If your infosec team is still hunting through spreadsheets for the right answers to assessment questions, your competition will surely beat you to the finish line if they’ve automated the process. Today, many deals are won and lost based on how long it takes your team to complete a security questionnaire.
  • Incorrect or Incomplete Responses: Often, an assessment will be returned by your customer if it didn’t match their expectations or if your infosec team glossed over certain questions. Either way, not doing it right the first time can be costly and time-consuming.
  • Legal Review: If some of the questions on the security questionnaire have legal implications, your team needs to carefully draft your responses and consider a legal review of the entire questionnaire. Your lawyer needs to review your answers for liability since the questionnaire could be used in a lawsuit to determine fault in the event of a security breach.

Unforeseen Costs

  • Regulatory Fines: As a vendor to customers in regulated industries such as banking or healthcare, you will be subjected to regulatory fines if you’re found guilty as part of a security breach. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning vendors that have access to Protected Health Information:“A Business Associate is directly liable under the HIPAA Rules and subject to civil and, in some cases, criminal penalties for making uses and disclosures of Protected Health Information that are not authorized by its contract or required by law. A Business Associate/Subcontractor also is directly liable and subject to civil penalties for failing to safeguard electronic Protected Health Information in accordance with the HIPAA Security Rule.”
  • Lawsuits: If your business is part of a security or data breach, it will more than likely be brought into the lawsuit. In 2109, Spiceworks conducted a survey of 600 IT and security decision-makers. Nearly half of the firms surveyed suffered a significant data breach caused by a vendor. Of those firms that suffered a data breach, nearly 80 percent enforced legal and/or monetary consequences, charging the third-party vendors for legal fees and financial reimbursement for public relations, technical costs and any other extra damages.
  • Media Exposure: Once a security breach occurs, the media will be clamoring to report on the incident, pulling your company name and your customer’s company name through the mud. Left on the Internet forever, this type of story can do serious damage to your company’s reputation and limit the number of customers that will trust you as a third-party vendor in the future.

The Benefit of Automation

While automation will not guarantee your company won’t be part of a security breach, it can certainly reduce the chances. An automated platform relies on technology to complete your security questionnaires instead of humans that can introduce errors. Automated platforms are also easier to manage because the vendor risk management steps are handled automatically.

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